You already know the AC, alternative energy, anti-globalization political movements, now here’s alterscience. A new word formed by a historian of science, Alexander Moatti associated with Paris-VII in the laboratory sphere (science, philosophy, history) teacher. It comes to devote a book Alterscience, subtitled Postures, dogmas, ideologies (Odile Jacob, 330 p., euros).
Concept behind this brand new hiding groups or individuals whose common point is to be scientists – doctors, engineers and researchers – and to oppose science, including refuting, sometimes quite virulent, robust pillars as heliocentrism, Darwinism, relativity Albert Einstein, quantum mechanics, post-Big Bang cosmology … It is therefore a question of creationists, of géocentristes, of antirelativistes etc.. The purpose is not to explain why they are wrong, but to understand where these trends come from, what their motivations are, and explore what connects. With a mystery: what led scientists to drift denial and radical?
In passionate texts Moatti Alexander, who is also president of the Society of Friends of the Library of the Ecole Polytechnique, so meticulously plunges the sources of these movements on the margins of science. And the reader is full of surprises.
READ: The Alterscientifiques: allergic polymaths to mathematical abstraction
We discover circles in France in the twentieth century, launched by engineers from colleges, who think that the Earth does not revolve around the Sun, as the circle of scientific and historical studies (CESHE) or Centre and prospective studies on Science (CEP). In addition, the author of the geocentric theories a core of creationism: the subordinate position of the Earth in space is for this trend, as unbearable as his age.
We also learn that this attitude is not new. Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793), known for his role in the French Revolution, was also a doctor who prided himself on optics and that is taken to Newton’s theory of the refraction of light. He also wrote against the Academy of Sciences and President Lavoisier, described as “modern charlatans.” Attacks over by Charles Fourier (1772-1837) and Auguste Comte (1798-1857) which will hyperpositivisme caused by Alexandre Moatti great harm to the French science, unable to make the turn in theoretical physics from 1850 (electromagnetism, gas kinetics, quantum theory …).
Another example is known as a brother of Light – the pioneers of cinema – Auguste (1862-1954), turned alterscientifique, challenging the contagious nature of tuberculosis in particular? And, as it should, in lambasting the Academy of Sciences, who knew his ideas (which was refused in its ranks, unlike Louis).
Often, diving is rude or foul, infected by the nationalist and anti-Semitic vituperation scientists. At dawn the two world wars, some European scholars do not shine by their analysis, rewriting the history of science into a German “national” science, British, French,. The French mathematician Emile Picard (1856-1941) Germany denies any predominance in the advance of science during the previous centuries. In response, his German colleague Ludwig Bieberbach (1886-1982) criticized the abstraction of a Cauchy (French) in relation to a specific Gauss (German). In his previous book, Einstein, a century against him (Odile Jacob, 2007), Alexander Moatti had also described the German Nazi scientists to the cause of anti-Semitic attacks against Einstein and his theory.
But what the alterscience? Alexander Moatti plays on several meanings of the word “alter”. These are “alternative” theories in science fact “altered” (that is to say distorted), and turn to others, because of the need for recognition by the public, outside of conventional procedures confrontation with peers.
And the German Hans H?rbiger (1860-1931) challenged the Newtonian gravitation and imagine a cosmogony with icy planets. Trofim Lysenko (1898-1976) takes issue with classical genetics … “This is certainly attempts to replace by other theories, as does the usual science. But the difference here is that this is done in defiance of the scientific method and its mechanism. Namely, identify internal to the theory or disagreements with experiments “contradictions, explains Gilles Dowek, director of research at INRIA, author of The prejudices which encumber us (Le Pommier, 2009). “It is not because theories replace others that any theory can walk!” Said the researcher.
TO END THE SCIENCE
Add the alterscience should not be confused with the para-or pseudo-sciences like astrology or some alternative medicine. They do not have the characteristic to take the opposite camp with virulence. The alterscience, though. The goal to end the science is even present in some groups studied by historians, such as those described as “ultra-left”.
Inspired by thinkers in fashion in the 1970s such as Jacques Ellul and Ivan Illich, these radicals, as Oblomoff group or parts and labor, not only link the military excesses, polluting or alienating of techno, but to attack the science as a whole. “Planck’s constant is the key to technical and industrial dominance in the twentieth century,” pastiche Moatti to summarize this position linking basic theory and quantum mechanics to a negative policy. Purely scientific motivations of protest fade before others, more political and ideological.
Beyond inventory, Alexander Moatti trying to capture sources, dynamic commonalities of these different movements. Thus, he spotted an unexpected feature: the hatred of the “sign” of abstraction, equations … or theory against practice. This goes along with a critique of reductionism in science, which results in an ever greater reliance on laws, numbers … This is somewhat ironic for people who often much studied mathematics, but it shows that in addition to alternative theories these people develop their own vision of science, not hesitating to sort out ideas, men , concepts …
“What is also striking is the resurgence of sea snakes between these groups and over time,” says the historian. For example, “technofasciste” American Lyndon LaRouche, as designated Alexander Moatti, reviews the history of math with the same arguments as the German Nazis learned a few decades earlier. Son learned from these politically separate groups indicate no willingness to mix, but want to understand how to build these discourses and ideologies. And negative, the opportunity to examine what science and its relationship with society.
For diving in alterscience emerges quite clearly the differences between science and its deformations, including the question of methods. It also highlights some contemporary attitudes that alterscience feeds: mistrust vis-à-vis technology, persistence of superstitions, temptation relativistic (all theories of nature are equal). Delusions not to be taken lightly …